At a Full Council meeting on 13th October the Labour administration voted to increase the budget to build a restaurant in place of the now demolished Harold Place toilets. The Conservative group had already voted against the building of the new restaurant, but we were reminded that the new vote was only to agree an increase in costs. This would have been a good opportunity to rethink the whole scheme and walk away.
Several factors are in play here. First, financial. Many of the recent major schemes the Council have been involved with, costs have spiralled from their original estimates. The huge overspend on the visitor centre in the country park, nearly 3 times the original estimate; out of control costs renovating six one bed flats in York Buildings, a 35% increase on the original estimate; costly increases to the Buckshole reservoir repair bill, more than 20% increase on original estimates; and most recently the huge increase in costs to demolish and make good the unsafe structure in Battle Road, a 60% increase on original estimates.
The Harold Place restaurant will be built on top of old Victorian underground toilets and undoubtedly the building costs will rise. It doesn’t take a clairvoyant to see this project will go over budget. At an overspend of 13% the Council will be making a loss on the rental income, even if you take in to account an additional income stream in respect of business rates.
Financially the scheme doesn’t add up, the cabinet report even states, “The £1.7m cost is an estimate and until tendered prices are actually received there will be considerable uncertainty on the costs of the project.”
There is also the question of sustainability. The Royal Institute of British Architects say that demolishing old buildings to replace with new ones is not always the most sustainable approach, as the carbon emissions released through their demolition and produced by new construction can be greater than if the buildings were simply refurbished. The old building has been demolished now but if you look around there are many suitable empty locations in the town centre that could have been regenerated to house a new restaurant, without building something new.
But the real missed opportunity, now the public toilets have been demolished, was to rethink the link between the town centre and the beach.
The toilets were long gone before the Council applied for the £24m Town Deal funding they have now been granted. Part of this grant could have been used to fund a new public realm space, with a much better thoroughfare linking the town centre with the seafront, along with refurbishing the dingy and smelly underpass that will still link the new restaurant to the beach and underground car park at Carlisle Parade.
To have a say on the planning application click on this link: https://publicaccess.hastings.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDet…